City Leaders Hoping To Draw Tourists To Nature Reserve

A unique mixture of bayous, pine trees, and high grass - it can only be found on the state's 1,300 acre reserve, located just outside of Pascagoula. Some people refer to the estuary on the outskirts of Pascagoula as a bit of a hidden treasure.

The estuary is home to several species of animals and plants. To promote the importance of this area, the state wants to make the reserve more open to the public in the near future.

The mission, estuary manager Peter Hoar said, is "to make these accessible to people so it increases public awareness and appreciation of these ecosytems."

The area isn't very tourist friendly at the moment. Trails throughout the area are little bumpy, but park officials hope one day to turn them into hiking trails that will draw more tourists to the bayous.

"This, of course, would also effect Pascagoula economically," city official Valerie Kestner said. "If we can bring people from this region or the Unites States, they're going to come here and stay here, eat in our restaurants, stay in our hotels and come look at our wildlife."

"We are in planning process and really a needs assessment process for developing all of our facilities, which will include where we will house our staff and education facilities," Hoar said.

To help with that planning process, city officials were invited to tour the reserve to see first hand what could bring people to the area.

"Not every place has an opportunity to get out on foot or truck and boat and see some of the plant life that is unique to just the place we live. It's our back yards," Kestner said.

Although the Estuary Reserve has been protected for years, the Department of Marine Resources just recently opened offices on the property. The new staff has already held two public tours, and is planning another event for sometime in the spring.